In February, Trotter, 25, had been out of work for more than three months when she missed a phone call from a potential employer — an HR person at a security company.
"Missed the call and just wanted to cry," Trotter says, recalling a low point in her job search. "I was just kicking myself."
Eventually she was able to reach the HR person. She submitted an application. And then a little more than a month later, she got the call: The company wanted her to come in for an interview.
A First Interview
On Friday, the government releases its monthly employment report, and economists are predicting more positive job growth. That means people are getting back to work, including some of those NPR has been following as part of The Road Back to Work series.
The morning of her interview, Trotter ironed her "power dress" and was confident.
"I'm so happy that this day has finally come," she said. "I mean, this is the first interview I've been on since I've been unemployed."
At that point, her job search had stretched four months.
"I've had no interviews. None," said Trotter, who lives in Hazelwood, Mo., near St. Louis. "No callbacks, nothing."
Landing A Job
As Trotter pulled into the parking lot for her interview, her confidence melted away. She had butterflies. But, it turned out, she had nothing to worry about.
"I got the job. Insert long sigh of relief," she said into an audio recorder she has been using to document her job search for NPR. "I'm so glad to have work to look forward to again."
Trotter is now making $14 an hour working as a receptionist, checking people's security credentials. That's actually more than she made in her last job. And the hours are perfect, too, making it possible for her and her boyfriend, Greg Perine, to drive into work at the same time — an essential requirement since they have only one car.
The Morning Ritual: Going To Work
It's 5:45 in the morning, on what will be Trotter's third day of work.
"Good morning," she says as she wakes up her two children — 3-year-old Malia and Malia's baby brother Gregory.
The children will go to day care at their grandmother's house while Trotter and Perine are at work.
Trotter picks an outfit — dark slacks, a gray shirt with some sparkles and a sweater over it. She runs a flat iron through her hair while Perine gets the kids dressed.
An hour later, the whole family, still a little groggy, piles into the car. Trotter gets dropped off first. She gives Perine a kiss and tells the kids goodbye.
As he drives, Perine reflects on the last five months with Trotter out of work. He says he was worried, real worried. But he tried to stay calm and convince Trotter that everything was going to be all right, until it really was.
"Knowing that she has a job makes it a lot less stressful," Perine says.
Returning To The Comforts Of Home, Bills
That afternoon, back at home, Trotter collapses into the overstuffed couch in their living room.
"It's so nice to come home and, you know, take off your stuffy clothes and your tight dressy pants and your nice shirt and just get into your comfortable clothes," says Trotter. "I forgot what that felt like."
She wore sweat pants more than she'd like to admit while she was unemployed. But landing the job and getting the first paycheck isn't the end.
"I have a lot of catching up to do," Trotter says, as she thinks about the mountain of bills that she needs to get current.
"I need to pay off some stuff. And Greg needs to pay off some stuff," she says. "That's getting in the way of us getting married, and doing the things that we want to do for the kids."
Right now, the focus is on digging out from the financial hole caused by months of unemployment.